Throwback weekend at Darlington Raceway is one of the most anticipated weekends on the NASCAR schedule for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Many drivers pay tribute to legends of the past with paint schemes that put a feeling of nostalgia in race fans. It is also one of the toughest races of the year. Five hundred miles on an old, abrasive surface give many drivers problems throughout the course of the race.
William Byron was on the pole once again this year, but Brad Keselowski jumped out to the lead to begin the Bojangles Southern 500 at Darlington. As Byron fell back a few positions, Kurt Busch also emerged into the second place position give chase to Keselowski. Busch made the pass on Keselowski on lap 20 and began to pull away from the field. A competition caution came out on lap 35, and everyone came down pit road for fresh tires and fuel. Kurt Busch continued to lead the race after the caution. On lap 69, Garrett Smithley spun around after he cut a tire. Once more, the field came down pit road for service. Kurt Busch continued to lead the rest of stage one and picked up the stage one win.
Kyle Larson had a great restart to begin stage two and he jumped out to the lead. Forty laps into the stage, the caution flag waved as Daniel Suarez made contact with Ryan Newman. Newman lost control of his car and went for a spin. Kurt Busch won the race off pit road and he continued to lead the field. Another caution came out with 32 laps left in the stage when Corie Lajoie blew a tire. This time, Kyle Busch won the race off pit road. Kyle Busch jumped out to a nice lead and had no issues finding the stage two win.
Kyle Busch won the race off pit road, and restarted the final stage of the race with the lead. Green flag stops began to cycled on lap 251. Kyle Busch cycled back into the lead with almost a two second lead over everyone else. On lap 275, Daniel Hemric has a tire go down, and as he tries to move out of the way, he loses control of his car. Denny Hamlin, Kurt Busch, and William Byron all make heavy contact after trying to slow down. Kyle Larson wins the race off pit road, but Erik Jones had an outstanding restart to jump out to the lead. The two continued to battle hard for the top spot, but Jones prevailed and took control of the race. On lap 319, the field began to come down pit road. Jones cycled back into the front with Kyle Busch right behind him. Busch continued to close the gap between him and Erik Jones. Kyle Busch slammed the wall hard with two laps remaining, this allowed Jones too seal the deal by winning the Bojangles’ Southern 500.
Erik Jones is another driver who is unsure of his future in the NASCAR Cup Series. He has been unsure whether he will return to Joe Gibbs racing next year or have to find a different team. This win for him is a good resume building for the young driver. It was a challenging race, and he outlasted everyone. He ran the final 80 laps without a flaw, and was able to beat everyone who tried to challenge him. A solid effort all around.
With one race remaining, the teams on the bubble will be doing everything they can next week to either win their way in, or to just survive to make into the playoffs. Indianapolis Motor Speedway will host the regular-season finale with the Big Machine Vodka 400. It will be another intense battle of speed and strategy for those trying make the cut and race their way into the playoffs.